Lore: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“It’s not always the truth that survives, but the stories we wish to believe. The legends lie. They smooth over imperfections to tell a good tale, or to instruct us how we should behave, or to assign glory to victors and shame those who falter.”

Lore by Alexandra BrackenEvery seven years Zeus punishes nine Greek gods by forcing them into the Agon. Warrior families have hunted the gods in every Agon for generations hoping to absorb their powers and receive blessings in the intervening years.

Lore always knew she was destined for greatness and glory in the Agon, meant to restore her family house’s honor. That was before Lore’s own disastrous mistake brought about the death of her entire family.

Now, seven years later, Lore thinks she’s finally made it out and started a new life. But the return of her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena appearing at Lore’s door prove she never escaped the brutality of the Agon. Not really.

After years of hiding and trying to forget, Lore will have to come out of the shadows and embrace her complicated past if she wants to live long enough to have a future in Lore (2020) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Lore is a standalone fantasy novel. Although the world building is heavily intertwined with Greeky mythology, the story itself includes enough information to make it approachable to those unfamiliar with the inspiration material. The book also includes a character list broken down by the family houses and lines. Lore and Castor are white although several members of the Agon families (including dark skinned Van and Iro) are from other racial backgrounds.

Lore is a fierce and often reluctant narrator. Most of her past is colored by trauma and regret over events that slowly unfold in flashbacks for readers as the novel builds to its explosive final act. Despite her desire to isolate herself and avoid further losses, Lore is surrounded by a strong group of friends and allies who add drama and levity to this potentially grim story. Lore’s best friend Miles Yoon–an outsider to the world of the Agon–is an especially fun addition to the cast and a steadfast friend to Lore.

Set over the course the week-long Agon this fast-paced story plays out against the backdrop of New York City as Lore and her allies search for a way to end the Agon forever. Lore’s efforts to find a place for herself as a young woman, both away from the Agon and within it, in a world all too quick to dismiss her is both timely and empowering.

Lore seamlessly blends elements from Greek mythology with a modern fantasy setting for a perfectly paced story of survival and fighting for what we deserve.

Possible Pairings: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake, Starling by Lesley Livingston, The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

The Darkest Legacy: A Review

“In darkness, you only needed to see just as far as your headlights extended. As long as you kept going, it was enough.”


“We’ve inherited the darkest legacy, but they don’t know that we’ve learned how to thrive in shadows and create our own light.”

Five years ago Suzume “Zu” Kimura and her friends helped end President Gray’s corrupt administration and the camp system that imprisoned the child survivors of IANN while claiming to rehabilitate them and “cure” their psychic abilities. Back then it had been easy to believe that change was possible.

But now Zu is seventeen and after watching Chubs and Vida try to work within a governmental system that fears them, she isn’t sure if true change–or true freedom–is possible. As a spokesperson, Zu tries to convince the public that the government is helping even as new legislation continues to restrict Psi rights.

When she is framed for committing a terrorist attack, Zu has to clear her name before her supposed guilt becomes an excuse to punish other Psi. Zu forms an uneasy alliance with Roman and Priyanka–two Psi who say they want to help her but might just as easily betray her. As they grow closer Zu realizes that Roman and Priyanka’s secrets are key to understanding the darkness that’s been allowed to fester while the interim government works to restore order.

With no one left to trust, Zu has to depend on herself and her voice as she tries to save the friends who once rescued her and effect real change in The Darkest Legacy (2018) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Darkest Legacy is a tense, frenetic return to the world of Bracken’s Darkest Minds trilogy (soon to be a motion picture staring Amandla Stenberg). Zu’s story is self-contained and largely independent from Ruby’s arc in the original trilogy. Familiarity with the previous books will give readers a larger appreciation for this standalone installment. The novel starts with Zu’s found family fractured over whether they should work within or outside of the government–a moral issue Zu struggles with both in the present story and in flashback chapters.

Zu’s Japanese-American heritage is thoughtfully portrayed and informs her lingering anger and post-traumatic stress from being in a Psi camp. The rest of the cast is equally inclusive including non-American characters who bring a different perspective to the Psi situation in the United States.

Zu has grown a lot since her time in the camp and with the Black Betty gang. She is desperate to convince her friends, and herself, that she is fine–that she’s not the girl who stopped talking for a year anymore. But it’s only when she acknowledges past traumas and hurts–both her own and those of other Psi–that she begins to understand her own strength as a survivor.

As Zu learns more about the government’s misdeeds and her own role in advocating for them, she realizes she has to question everything she believes about the government and herself as she tries to find her own way–and her own moral code–to make a place for Psi in a society that doesn’t always want to acknowledge or accept them.

The Darkest Legacy is an empowering story of independence, resilience, and one girl’s decision to act even in the face of impossible odds and indifference. A must-read for fans of the series and a nail-biting introduction for readers discovering it for the first time.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2018*

*A more condensed version of this review was published in School Library Journal*

Wayfarer: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Wayfarer is the conclusion to Bracken’s Passenger duology. It contains major spoilers for book one. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with Passenger*

“All of us have had to come to terms with the fact that our loyalty is to time itself. It’s our inheritance, our nation, our history.”

“We can live in the past, but we cannot dwell there.”

Wayfarer by Alexandra BrackenEtta’s preparations for her debut as a concert violinist feel distant in the wake of revelations that she and her mother are part of a long line of time travelers who have drawn Etta into the center of a dangerous battle for power.

Etta has gone around the world and through time searching for a coveted astrolabe that can control and manipulate the timeline itself. She knows the astrolabe has to be destroyed. But she also knows she will need it herself if she hopes to save her mother.

Orphaned by a disastrous change to the timeline, Etta wakes up alone in another place and time separated from Nicholas, her partner throughout this journey. The future that she knows no longer exists. In this new timeline Etta finds unexpected help from Julian Ironwood–Cyrus’s heir, long presumed dead–and an unlikely ally from Etta’s own past.

Nicholas could do nothing to keep Etta with him when she was Orphaned. Now he and Sophia are following every lead–every passage–that they can to find the astrolabe and Etta. Their uneasy alliance is tested by the pursuers far too close behind and the mercenary who may be trying to help Nicholas and Sophia–or stop them.

Separated by time itself Nicholas and Etta will have to face impossible odds, familiar enemies, and a dangerous new power if they hope to reunite and keep the timeline safe in Wayfarer (2017) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Wayfarer is the conclusion to Bracken’s latest duology which begins with Passenger. It contains major spoilers for book one. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning.

Wayfarer picks up shortly after the dramatic conclusion of Passenger. Etta is injured and alone after she is Orphaned while Nicholas is left behind in Nassau where he is forced to rely on Sophia’s knowledge of the passages to hopefully find Etta and the astrolabe before time runs out.

This novel once again alternates close third person narration between Etta and Nicholas (possibly with slightly more time given to Nicholas). Although they are separated at the start of the novel both Etta and Nicholas remain true to each other and confident in each other amidst rampant mistrust and doubts from their allies. The steadfastness of their belief in each other is heartening as almost everything else these characters hold true is thrown into doubt over the course of the story as all of the characters face difficult choices once the full threat of the astrolabe becomes clear.

Bracken expands the world of the travelers in Wayfarer with new characters (be sure to watch out for mercenary Li Min), and new backstory about the origins of the travelers and the four families. Sophia, happily, also plays a bigger role in this story after previously being an antagonist to both Nicholas and Etta. Sophia remains ambitious, angry, and delightfully unapologetic even as she begins to make new choices. The focus of this story also shifts from romance to relationships of a different sort as friendships, partnerships, and other alliances form.

One of the constant themes in this series is trust. In Passenger Etta and Nicholas have to learn how to trust each other and, to some extent, their abilities as travelers (albeit inexperienced ones). Wayfarer, meanwhile, finds both Etta and Nicholas having to form new bonds in order to survive. These changing relationships lend depth and substance to a story that is already rich with historical detail and fully developed characters.

Wayfarer is a brilliant novel about trust, choices, and time travel (of course) filled with romance, action, and more than a few memorable moments. This series is a great introduction to time travel and also ideal for fans of the sub-genre. The perfect conclusion to one of my favorite duologies. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Fable by Adrienne Young

*An advance copy of this title was sent by the publisher for review consideration*

Passenger: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The truly remarkable thing about your life is that you’re not bound to live it straight forward like the rest of us.”

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenAfter a devastating loss on the night of her latest violin performance, Etta Spencer finds herself torn away from the people she loves and even from her own time.

Nicholas Carter is centuries away and confident his dream of captaining his own ship is well within reach even with the challenges inherent to his status as a freed slave.

When Etta appears as an unexpected passenger on Nicholas’ ship, the two are thrown together in a hunt for a stolen artifact. Etta hopes it can help her return to her own time. Nicholas, meanwhile, believes giving the artifact to the Ironwoods can sever his remaining ties to the ruthless family while also keeping Etta safe.

Traveling across centuries and around the world, Nicholas and Etta will have to trust each other as they follow clues to the artifact’s long-hidden location. Along the way they will uncover secrets about Etta’s past and a truth that could threaten both of their natural times–and everything in between–in Passenger (2016) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Passenger is the first of a two-book series that is partly a homage to Outlander and partly all its own. The story will continue in Wayfarer.

Passenger is a thrilling adventure that spans countries and centuries. Each time period Etta visits is brought to life with vivid and well-researched descriptions ranging from the nuances of eighteenth century clothing to an eerily well-realized depiction of London during the Blitz.

Passenger is a book filled with a diverse group of time travelers who live across and between time–often spending large periods of their lives outside of their normal flow of time and living in a decidedly non-linear fashion.

Because of this fluidity, Passenger is filled with unlikely allies (and enemies) as characters who would never otherwise meet are brought together. Consequently the dynamic between Etta and Nicholas has a complex tension as they work to find common ground despite their shockingly different upbringings and times. Their initial attraction and romance is even more satisfying because these two characters meet as equals and partners.

Although Bracken has moved in a different direction from her popular Darkest Minds trilogy, the writing here remains strong with her usual attention to detail both in terms of an intricate plot and many rich settings. Passenger is a delightful novel sure to appeal to fantasy readers and fans of time travel stories as well as readers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Fable by Adrienne Young

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2015*

In the Afterlight: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Black is the color of memory.

“It is our color.

“The only one they’ll use to tell our story.”

In the Afterlight by Alexandra BrackenRuby is haunted by memories of her time at Thurmond–the country’s largest rehabilitation camp–and what she has done to survive since her escape. No matter how hard she runs, she can’t get away from the memories of the people she has lost along the way.

But she has to keep moving because there might finally be an end in sight with a potential cure for IAAN–the disease that has killed so many children and left survivors like Ruby with strange and sometimes crippling abilities.

Pressure is mounting to rescue Psi kids from the camps. But time is also running out to stop IAAN. After surviving the government’s attack on Los Angeles, Ruby and the other Psi kids are even more determined to bring about change. Questions arise, however, as they try to decide what to do and who to follow.

Ruby’s loyalties are soon torn between Liam, the boy who has Ruby’s heart and his brother Cole, the only person who understands everything Ruby struggles to control. With both brothers trying to pull their motley team of survivors in different directions, Ruby has to make some painful choices.

After years of hiding, Ruby will have to embrace who she is–and what she can do–to save the people she loves in In the Afterlight (2014) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

In the Afterlight is the conclusion of Bracken’s Darkest Minds trilogy. It is preceded by The Darkest Minds and Never Fade.

Bracken once again delivers a high action and deeply thoughtful story as she brings her bestselling trilogy to a close.

While the story has its moments of action (and a bit of a road trip) this novel really shines as the focus turns to Ruby and the characters that have been with her from the beginning. Readers have seen Ruby push people away and sacrifice her own well-being for the sake of others. Throughout the series she has also struggled with her ability and what it means in relation to her sense of self. In the Afterlight includes the same struggles but more than ever it is obvious that Ruby is coming into her own as she embraces who she is and everything she can do.

It’s impossible to say too much about the plot without revealing too much, but rest assured that In the Afterlight has everything readers could hope for in this final installment. In the Afterlight is largely the story that these characters, particularly Ruby, deserve and also one that is deeply satisfying. An excellent conclusion to an excellent series.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Never Fade: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Never Fade by Alexandra BrackenRuby never chose to be an Orange. She never wanted to be able to control people’s minds or be a detainee in Thurmond. She didn’t want to lose Liam and Chubs and Zu. She didn’t want anything to do with the Children’s League.

But Ruby hasn’t been able to make her own choices for a very long time.

After escaping the Smoke and trying to save her friends as best she could, Ruby is now part of the Children’s League, More than that, she’s the Leader of her team. But all Ruby can  think is that they’re trusting a monster. Because isn’t that what someone with her ability must be–a monster?

Something is wrong in the League. Secrets and lies threaten to bring the entire organization down with deadly consequences for Ruby and the other children in the League. Worse, crucial information about the virus that has cost the country, and Ruby herself, so much has gone missing.

Desperate to gain control over her life and keep the people she cares about safe, Ruby embarks on a desperate mission to track down the missing information even if it will lead her back to Liam Stewart–the boy Ruby thought she’d never see again, the one who won’t remember her either way.

Ruby has bartered away her own freedom to protect her friends. As she tries again to keep everyone safe, she has to decide how much more she can lose before nothing of the real Ruby is left in Never Fade (2013) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Never Fade is the sequel to Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds. It is also the second book in this trilogy.

This book picks up a few months after the events of The Darkest Minds. It also relies very heavily on events from book one making this a series you should start at the beginning.

Bracken strikes a perfect balance between old and new characters here. Readers will recognize some familiar faces (even some surprising ones) from book one. At the same time newer characters that Ruby encounters at the League add a lot to the story with new personalities that jump off the page.

Never Fade opens with some intricate action sequences that are a serious departure from the tone and rhythm of book one. However after the action packed opening the story returns to pacing and structure more in line with what readers of The Darkest Minds would expect.

It’s impossible to say more about the plot without seriously spoiling both this book and the first. Suffice it to say that this one has just as many twists and surprises as the first along with some new locations. Despite the fast-paced plot, the focus remains on the characters as Bracken highlights the changes Ruby (and others) have been forced to make after the events of book one.

The characters are also central to this story and a huge part of why this series works. Without ever being overly romantic or twee, Never Fade  is a testament to the power of connections even as those bonds are tested and broken. It’s not an exaggeration to say this book will break your heart even as it puts the pieces back together.

Action and suspense will keep readers turning the pages anxiously but the bonds between Ruby and her friends and the surprising revelations at the ending are what makes Never Fade another sensational read from a great author.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

 

The Darkest Minds: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, she didn’t know her world was about to change. She knew about the disease sweeping through the country’s children–it was impossible to miss when kids kept dying. She didn’t know that surviving the disease was the worse outcome.

Surviving, it turns out, was another word for changing–waking up one day with abilities that used to be the impossible stuff of movies; waking up with strange powers that most of the kids, especially Ruby, can’t begin to understand. Or control.

Now sixteen, Ruby knows just how dangerous she is. She knows she’ll never be allowed to leave Thurmond, the government camp set up to “rehabilitate” other kids like her.

She also knows that she has to escape to survive.

On the run, desperate to get away, Ruby soon falls in with other kids looking for a sanctuary called East River. Ruby knows she can’t let anyone get close–not after what happened on her tenth birthday–but maybe they can all use each other to get to East River in one piece.

Life outside Thurmond isn’t what Ruby expected. Turns out, staying under the radar is hard when you’re dangerous. Ruby lost control of her life when she was ten years old. If she can learn more about her own abilities, she might be able to reclaim that control. But everything in life comes with a price. Especially freedom in The Darkest Minds (2012) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Darkest Minds is Bracken’s second novel. It is also the first in a trilogy.

This book was one of my most anticipated 2012 reads. I fell in love with Bracken’s debut novel Brightly Woven and ever since I could not wait to see what she released next.

Part road trip, part sci-fi adventure, part dystopian The Darkest Minds does not disappoint. With a plot that turns on a dime it is a guaranteed page-turner with an ending that will leave readers anxious for the next installment.

At the same time, The Darkest Minds is so much more than an action-packed read. Ruby’s story is heart-wrenching and horrifying but her resilience and her persistence are fierce to behold. The other characters in the story are vibrant and beautifully written–even at their most villainous.

Bracken has created a disturbing world with elements that are both fantastical and uncomfortably possible in our own world. Ruby’s voice throughout the novel is as smooth as honey filled with descriptions that bring the eerie Virginia landscape of the story vividly to life. The Darkest Minds is a stunning, sometimes harrowing, start to a series; confirming that Bracken is an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

Brightly Woven: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Brightly Woven by Alexandra BrackenThe day the rains finally come to Cliffton, Sydelle Mirabil doesn’t know her life is about to change. She has no idea foreign soldiers are preparing to invade her small village. She doesn’t know that her country is on the precipice of war. She certainly don’t know anything about wizards.

All of that changes with the rain.

Wayland North does know all of those things. When the town offers the young wizard a reward for bringing the much-needed rains he also knows exactly what he needs: the young weaver named Sydelle.

Sydelle has no choice but to accompany the wizard on his long journey to the capital. Much as she detests being tied to him she knows they have to get to the capital if the war is to be avoided. Plagued by foul weather, Sydelle’s temper and North’s black mood, the trip is not easy. Wayward wizards and dangerous secrets threaten to derail their journey long before they reach the capital.

As the pair make their way across the country Sydelle begins to understand there may be more to North than his vague statements and mercurial temperament. There might even be more to Sydelle herself. Like any good weaving, it is going to take Sydelle many layers to see the full picture in Brightly Woven (2010) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find the graphic novel adaptation on Bookshop.

Brightly Woven is Bracken’s first novel.

While the story could have used slightly more resolution in some areas, Bracken has created an appealing fantasy here. Sydelle’s narration is lyrical and Wayland North is one charming mess of a wizard. In a story where the two main characters are mostly crossing varied terrain, Bracken’s ability to build drama and maintain tension is impressive.

Without giving away too much, the weaving aspect of the story added a nice dimension to the story. The combination of textiles and magic makes the premise of the story unique. Sydelle’s focus on weaving also fleshed out her character and only helped to enhance the narrative.

Brightly Woven has everything readers hope to find in a traditional fantasy. Beautifully written, this novel evokes not only the physical landscape of Sydelle’s world but the culture as well. Sydelle and North are wonderfully rendered characters that are dimensional, funny and completely captivating. In other words Brightly Woven is absolutely a must read for fantasy lovers and Bracken herself is definitely an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Roar by Cora Carmack, The Reader by Traci Chee, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, Warped by Maurissa Guibord, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

*This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Exclusive Bonus Content: Aside from being my favorite publisher at BEA, Egmont also has some really amazing covers, like this one here. I’m completely in love with it. I also am thrilled at how well it captures Sydelle and how many elements of the story are represented here.